What is the Arc browser everyone's talking about and how do you get it?

Arc wants to change the way you use the internet, and now it's open to everyone using Apple kit

Arc browser
(Image credit: Future)

We're a long way from the browser wars of the 1990s when Internet Explorer and Netscape battled for supremacy, and chances are that when you log on now you're either using Edge, Chrome or on Macs, Safari: while rival browsers such as Firefox and Opera are excellent, they don't have the big browsers’ market share. And in all honesty Arc probably won’t either, but if you’re looking for a Chrome or Safari rival it’s an attractive and interesting app.

Arc has been invite-only for ages, but now it’s finally available to everybody on macOS and iOS: all you need to do is download it from arc.net and (if you want to) transfer your bookmarks and other data from your current web browser.

So why would you want to?

What's so great about the Arc browser?

Arc isn’t just about viewing web pages. It’s about organising your online life, so the app is a little bit of everything. It’s very customisable via themes, it has a useful split screen view and its take on the familiar sidebar is useful and interesting. Instead of having separate sidebars for tabs and for bookmarks, Arc mixes them up in the same section to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. 

The big idea here is called Spaces, which enables you to quickly switch between multiple spaces in the same browser. Each space can have its own coloured sidebar and its own set of user accounts, which is great for anyone who does work and personal stuff on the same device or who just likes to keep different kinds of sites and services separate. 

You can also customise the way websites work, removing bits of pages and customising the colours and fonts to suit yourself. There's also a built-in ad blocker.

I don’t think this is a browser for beginners, as friendly as the startup screens are: it does take a bit of getting used to, and as a version 1.0 product you should expect bugs, crashes and all the other joys of early access software. But if you’re looking for a more privacy-protecting alternative to Chrome or a more up-to-date alternative to Safari it’s a really interesting and potentially very powerful way to go online, and it’ll be really interesting to see how it develops.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).